The Pahokee Saga: Lane Kiffin Against the World

Kevin ScottCorrespondent IMay 14, 2009

There's been much made of Lane Kiffin's comments regarding the Pahokee community following Signing Day concerns about Vol's Letter of Intent signee Nu'Keese Richardson was due to send in to the University of Tennessee Head Coach.

Regarding his concerns about someone at Pahokee possibly trying to interfere, at a recruiting lunecheon with UT supporters and boosters Kiffin said, "They didn't go do it at the school because they knew somebody at the school was going to screw it up, the fax machine wouldn't work or they would have changed the signatures."

However, the real stir was created when Kiffin followed that by saying, "For those of you who haven't been to Pahokee, there ain't much going on. You take that hour drive up from South Florida, there ain't a gas station that works. Nobody's got enough money to even have shoes or a shirt on."

Kiffin maintained that he didn't mean what he said the way it was taken, that he was trying to entertain the crowd he was speaking to. He also apologized on numerous occasions to the Pahokee community or anyone who took offense to the remarks:

"If I offended anybody in Pahokee or has to do with Pahokee or in the schools, I apologize and I want to make sure it's understood that is not what was meant by it at all. It was just an energetic breakfast with some of our donors. Didn't even know that there was a camera present when the things were said." Kiffin told the Palm Beach Post on April 3.

Despite Kiffin's apology and Pahokee's football coach Blaze Thompson insisting he considers the matter closed, Tennessee assistant coach Eddie Gran was asked to leave the property of Pahokee High School by Principal Ariel Alejo.

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"Coach Kiffin publicly apologized to Blaze Thompson ... but I'm still waiting, and the community is as well," Alejo said. "It's what I think he owes the community of Pahokee and what he owes this school. His comments were made public, so now he needs to go publicly and retract those comments."

Gran was visiting the school to extend an offer of a full scholarship to one of the athletes Tennessee is recruiting from there. There are a handful of Pahokee players who already have an offer from the Vols, and all have so far maintained they are interested in playing for UT despite the comments Coach Kiffin made.

I have talked to several of those players, and all of them maintained they were initially bothered by the comments, but credited Kiffin for apologizing and moved on, and no longer had an issue with the Coach or the school.

It would seem to anyone who looks further than just the surface that the problem with Kiffin only lingers with Ariel Alejo. Kiffin apologized to all of Pahokee, not just the football coach, also including "anyone who was offended". So what more does Alejo want?  

Alejo has suggested that this could only be remedied by Kiffin's personally flying down on May 19th to Pahokee where he could attend a city commission session and apologize there.


The twist to this story comes when you learn that Alejo is an avid, die hard Florida Gator fan. He's such a big fan of the Gators, that until yesterday, his profile page on the School's "official" website included a Gator logo, instead of a Pahokee logo. Some may consider this a non-issue, but think about it for a minute.

The NCAA consider's a "fan" to be someone who has promoted the University's athletic programs, and expressly forbids them from influencing the recruiting process of a prospective student athlete in any way. I would call kicking your arch rival's recruiter for that area out of your school influencing things.

Mike Griffith of the Knoxville News Sentinel joined the "mob" of media types that piled on Kiffin for his comments on Pahokee, recently writing a blog criticizing Kiffin sharply for his actions. The "article" omitted several facts, easy to find ones, and left out a good bit of detail in facts it did mention.

What would be so hard about going down the road and asking a question before you write? How about gathering some facts? Does the truth not sell papers?

Lucky for people in the Tennessee community, there are a few guys like John Brice of Volquest.com that will ask the questions, get both sides of the story and gather some facts before raking someone over the coals. I urge everyone to go to Volquest.com and read Mr. Brice's article.

Having said all that, even though Lane Kiffin was wrong in his initial statements, Kiffin is getting treated unfairly from all sides here.

The Principal of a public school refuses to allow one of their students to be offered a scholarship to get a higher education for free, interfering with the recruitment of said player. The local, hometown paper can't do a little simple research before slamming the Coach, who has already gone out of his way to apologize on multiple occasions.

You can bet that if Urban Meyer showed up to Maplewood High School in Nashville and was turned away by a Principal who had a "T" logo on his school board profile, Jeremy Foley and all his "buddies" at the SEC offices would be all over UT, and so would the NCAA.

The same should apply here. Someone needs to find out why or if Mr. Ariel has another motive for booting the arch rival out of the school.




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